Four South Shore elders, two in their 90s, reflected on the full measure of the life and legacy of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. They chose to remember the service he gave and the people he helped, rather than the tragic death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick.
Elders speak about Kennedy's legacy and life. Click center button to turn off and on.
They have the perspective of time, and the gratitude of constituents well served.
Elders on the South Shore are today remembering Sen. Edward Kennedy for all he did for Massachusetts. They also expressed fondness for his family, respect for all the losses it has sustained and, for the most part, forgiveness for his role in a fatal car crash at Chappaquiddick.
Succumbing late Tuesday, at age 77, he died at “what I would consider an early age,” 94-year-old Elizabeth Saliba said Wednesday at 1000 Southern Artery in Quincy. He endured brain cancer with grace, she said, and left a legacy “well done for the benefit of the American people.”
“I was really shocked and deeply saddened,” Saliba said. “(The Kennedys) always seem to have hard situations that do bring them down with their grief, then uplift them with their faith.”
Like many, Lucy Kalaijian, 83, a retired teacher from Weymouth, said she was keenly aware of all Kennedy did for them – including his work on Medicare, health care reform and a host of other issues. And though he’s gone, she said, his work isn’t totally done.
“(He) has been a marvelous senator for the country, and I hope the people will put some serious thought in this health care issue because that was his life’s work,” Kalaijian said.
Asked about Chappaquiddick – in which Kennedy drove a car into a Martha’s Vineyard pond in 1969, killing Mary Jo Kopechne, Kalaijian responded, “We have to be a forgiving nation here. ... He was young, reckless and he made bad decisions, and this poor girl dies ... but these people who keep bringing it up and expect retribution. This man has given over and over.”
It was the personal touch that distinguished Kennedy, in the eyes of many older citizens.
Joseph Nicastro, a 90-year-old from Weymouth, recalled stories of how Kennedy reached out to help families with sick or disabled children.
Retired nurse Shirley Harrow, 76, said her deep dislike of the senator after Chappaquiddick was gradually replaced by “wonderful feelings that he was always working for the underdog. He could never be bought. He devoted his life to being senator for people who could not represent themselves. He was phenomenal as a senator.”
Nicastro, a former educator, recalled a family he knew who had a mentally disabled son and a daughter. “He did a lot for them, he helped the family and he helped find funding for a swimming pool so they could stay at home.”
The bottom line, Nicastro said, is that “he did a lot for Massachusetts. Massachusetts had a lot to say down in Washington. He did get the money here.
“They’re going to miss him, there’s no question about that.”
Sue Scheible may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.